What I Would Say To My Younger Self About Cleaning (The Reboot Day 13)

I used to really beat myself up over the way my home looked.

“I will never change”

“My husband would be happier with a woman who cleaned all the time”

“I hate cleaning, and I hate that I’m not the cleaning type”

I put so much stock into how well and how often I cleaned (which wasn’t well or often), and I constantly felt like a failure. I wanted to be a “good” homemaker; I wanted to make my husband proud.

It’s been nine years since I’ve been married and keeping a home, and I’m still the same old non-cleaner woman. However, I have learned a few things, and I’d like to share them with my younger self…and all the non-cleaners of the world who struggle with feelings of failure.

Dear Younger Self:

Your identity is not in how well or how often you clean.

The sum of who you are is not in your ability to keep the dishes off the counter and the laundry put away. You are no less or no better in God’s eyes because of how you clean. When you are His, you are beautiful and perfect because of Jesus, right now, right where you are. We submit to the Holy Spirit as He molds and changes us to be more like Jesus, and we are His, but according to eternity, we are already complete.

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14

Your identity is not in what your husband or anyone else thinks of you.

I used to believe the lie that my husband would be better off with someone who was a good cleaner. I was in so much bondage due to this lie; I felt worthless. The truth is, my husband would love it if I cleaned more/better, but he loves me and is committed to me for life. He accepts my purple boots, my sparkly grey nail polish (can a grown woman wear sparkly grey nail polish? Yes!), my driven personality, and my complete lack of Martha Stewart DNA. I care what he thinks because I love him and respect him, but we also respect each other as we grow and become. The thing is, even if my husband thought I was worthless or stupid or whatever because I didn’t clean up to a particular standard, it wouldn’t really matter because he doesn’t have the authority to tell me who I am. That authority is reserved for the throne of grace alone.

Only Jesus has the authority to tell me who I am.

You are not a slave to your personality.

I’ve got news for you love, the excuse “this is just who I am, accept it” is a selfish excuse and not fit for a woman who longs to be like Jesus. When I claim “this is me, deal with it!” I am not claiming the humility or servanthood of the One who died for all my ugly. No, that’s not the way of the cross. The way of the cross is to submit our personalities and our bents and all of the things that make us who we are, to Jesus. All of who we are is for His glory.

If you are a non-cleaner type like myself, that’s okay to know that you will never have the Martha Stewart way about you. God doesn’t love you any more or any less because of your bents. However, He does ask us to obey, to be diligent, and to be like Jesus. And so, we lay ourselves low and follow the Way.

You can choose to love well through keeping your home.

I know you don’t like to clean, you find it boring and you’d rather do almost anything else. But listen, you can love others well by creating a place of peace and beauty for those around you. You can love yourself well by taking care of your domain and giving life to it. We can create beauty out of ashes; peace out of chaos. It is kingdom work, eternal work, because love is eternal. Look at cleaning as an act of love towards yourself and those around you; Look at is as an act of worship to your God.

There is an ebb and flow of life that you will settle into.

I think the best part of being married for nine years, having children, and keeping my home is that I now understand more of who I am and that life undulates as I swim through it. I know the ups and downs, and I know that there are times of great consistency, great upheaval, and great peace. I have learned to be content with the ebb and flow of life. I know I’ll never be the go go go type of cleaner, but I also know I will care for my domain and the people in it. I will choose to maintain my home, push back on the Genesis curse, and persevere in order to love well.

It’s a good place to be when you find peace; when you accept who you are, when you quit striving, and when you give yourself to the Potter. It’s the sweet spot.

Today’s Challenges

Mary Challenge: Mediate on Hebrews 10:14. Ask God for revelation on what it means for you to be complete/perfect inChrist.

Martha Challenge: Let’s get started on the kitchen. Pick five tasks you’d like to accomplish this week – make the reasonable according to your limitations. Do one of those tasks today.

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  • Vbacwarrior

    Completely unrelated to this post, but I just got  “You Are a Writer” by Jeff Goins. Are you the Sarah Mae who wrote the forward?

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Yep! :)

  • Danielleh

    Oh my gosh. I love every post of yours that I read. Every time I comment I say “I’ve thought the same thing – almost word of word”. Including “Can a grown woman (in ministry) wear *blue* nailpolish?” Thank you!

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Haha! Kindred!

    • http://twitter.com/JudiWA Judi Hanhi

      I wear Purple.

    • http://twitter.com/JudiWA Judi Hanhi

      I wear purple nail polish.

  • Blessed Mama

    I always dreamed of being a homemaker… welcoming my husband home with supper waiting… spending my days loving and laughing with my children…
    16 years and 5 kids later…. I KNOW it’s not that simple. I was not prepared for all the hard work that goes with it- in parenting or homemaking! I’ve never been a great housekeeper… there are almost always loads of laundry to fold or wash, dishes in the sink, toys in the floor… Things are rarely done… I constantly fight laziness, fight the ‘why bother’ mentality, fight the ‘they’d be so much better with a different wife/mother’ mentality…
    I also strive to prepare my daughter (and sons, but specifically her) for becoming a wife and mother AND everything else that comes with it.
    Posts in bloggy land like this one lift my spirit and keep moving forward and looking toward Him… Thanks SarahMae!

    • http://twitter.com/cathytress Cathy Tressider

      I’ve been married 16 years and have 5 kids too!  And fight the same issues you do!

  • Kathy Vost

    Yay! I try soooooooooooooooooo hard and feel bad when there is nothing to show at the end of a hard days labour. Now I shall just keep plodding along, trying new ways to get things done, and close my eyes to the stuff the toddlers undo faster than I can do. One day, they will leave home and I will be bored when the housework is done for the day! :)

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Haha! You won’t be bored, there is so much to explore! 

  • Beth Williams

    My hubby of 8 years knows very well that Martha Stewart doesn’t live here!   I don’t pretend to be a good housekeeper.  We, together, try to keep it clean & swept up.

    Working outside the home doesn’t give me that much time to clean, do laundry, dishes (by hand–our dishwasher is broken and new one not arrivd yet), etc. 

    Great post!

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      If my dishwasher broke down, I would break down. I realize that is a completely first world problem, but I’m just sayin’. ;)

  • http://www.sattvicfamily.net/ Elizabeth

    I really needed to read this. I am 29 and horrid at cleaning. I was never taught any homemaking skills, as I went away to boarding school at age 12. When I had my daughter, my apartment was a disaster and I had no one to come over and help me learn where to start, and I felt like a failure. My mom told me that I was. My husband on the other hand was always in the ‘it really, really doesn’t matter’ frame of mind and in my heart I was as well.
    Recently I decided that I wanted to get my house in order, and not for anyone or any reason other than to please myself. Thanks for being an inspiration!!

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      People still go to boarding schools?! 

      So happy to inspire you – keep going!

  • Jessi Grace

    I struggle with keeping a clean house, and have so often felt like a failure.  One day when I was spending time with my husband he told me that he was glad that I cared more about spending time with him than having a perfect home.   He said that his co-workers would love to have a wife that would just spend time with them in the evening.  I realized then that part of what made our marriage so good was that we did spend so much time with each other.  I do want to become more efficient at cleaning, but at the end of the day I would rather my husband and my children know that I value them more than I do being the perfect housewife. 

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Sounds like you’ve got a good man, my friend. :)

  • Pamela

    I am just the opposite.  I always use to be so organized, neat, clean, and had a place for everything.   Then I got married.  My husband isn’t that way at all.  He is the type that just puts it down.    Then we had a child, then another, the another and so on.  Now we have five kids.  I try to keep things organized and trying to teach my kids organizational skills, only my oldest has really caught on.   We have been married almost 10 years, and my husband knows I work hard and that it is hard to keep things really clean around here.  I love that man.  Since I have been doing this challenge and the original things are a lot more organized and less  messy.  Even though things still get messy :) 

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      So glad even a messy can help ya! ;)

  • Monique

    I am going to iron now. Thank you for this encouragement! Love from Holland

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Holland! Love it, thanks for stopping by! :)

  • Kimberlycarruth

    Thanks, I really needed this!!  My hubby doesn’t mind that Martha doesn’t live here.  He has told me before that if he wanted it that clean he would do it himself!!  With 2 kiddies under 3 it ian’t realistic to be Martha.  I want to treasure them and play with them while they are little.  As a matter of fact I am playing Mr. Potato Head while typing this.  I have had others belittle me and it bothered me for a while… I decided that the sour attitude was there problem… I let it roll off my back now, as I feel I am on the track that Christ watns me on!  

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Way to go, mama! 

  • Jennifer

    I have never been a great housekeeper.  When my hubby & I first got married, I was terrible.  I *hate* doing dishes at night, I have always preferred to do them in the morning, but I hate how gross it is after leaving them overnight.  What’s a girl to do?  I am great at washing clothes, but I have a hard time folding them and putting them away.  I almost never vacuum (though that is about to change because we are having our 2nd baby in a few months and I don’t want him crawling around on dirty carpets).  But I followed Flylady for a couple of years and have a few habits that I do regularly, like making the bed every day and keeping the bathrooms clean (though not every day).  I also try to unload the dishwasher soon after running it so that it is available to reload with dirty dishes.  And I love this blog.  It keeps me motivated to do better for Christ.  What if Christ had given up on us because we were too boring, too demanding or His sacrifice was just too hard?  I am grateful that He was not like us, and that we have been given the opportunity to try to be more like Him.

    • Amanda

      I wash my dishes every morning. Just make sure to rinse them as you set them in the sink! That gets the really tough grime off usually. Then just toss em into the dishwasher and you should be good to go! Also, if you have any really gross pans, leave them soaking in soapy water overnight for easy hand-washing. I tried the idea from a previous post about laundry, which is to not start a new load until your first load is folded and put away. It works really well for me!!!

  • JackieS

    Housekeeping was never my thing – i cared for my hubby and kids, worked outside the home, did what was needed, but never really felt the housekeeping “bug”.  However, as I’ve turned 50 this year, I am starting to see the servant’s heart in really thinking about what i’m doing – whether it is stuff for work, for the home, etc.  It still won’t be done the way I want it to be, too many things need sorted, and my schedule is busy – but as you said, I will “give myself to the Potter – find that sweet spot.”  Beautiful.

  • Noel McNeil

    I am really liking this ‘cleaning’ series. I am having to learn how to clean room by room.  I am the tornado type, but being due with my third in a few weeks and living on a farm, I have to pace myself.  Can’t spend 4+ hours anymore being a cleaning crazy woman.  I love how you address the heart behind cleaning.  Everything we do comes down to a heart issue and who we are living for.  Which should always be Christ, but it is easy to get sidetracked…unfortunately.  Thanks for all your hard work!

  • Cheryl Johnston

    Thank you! I am printing out your paragraph on loving well through keeping your home. That is the reminder that I need when I don’t have the motivation to get through my day.

  • Annie Anderson

    Loved this post!! Seriously, just yesterday I was going around the house looking at all the mess. In the end, I made myself an iced latte, packed the kids in the car and went to the library. I decided the mess could wait. But seriously, the younger me definitely needed a talking to! 

  • Andrea H

    Ah, what a good reminder for me – we have a newborn, three weeks old now, and as I look around …. I see things I am itching to pick up, put away, sort through.  (I AM the cleaning type … and it can feel like a curse!)  I have to constantly remind myself that it is okay – remind myself of that ebb and flow you mentioned!